Wednesday, March 24, 2010
It's done, but not finished. Health care (or more accurately, health insurance) reform is the law of the land. A few minor fixes will survive the reconciliation process and the Obama administration will put a check mark next to this item on their to-do list. To be sure, it will face an onslaught of misguided legal challenges; which it will survive, as the Republican party continues to Balkanize itself on the shoals of intolerance.
The GOP has allowed itself to become fractured in a way that I used to think only Democrats were capable of doing. I suppose what is about to happen is best characterized as the ritual cleansing of those weaklings among the keepers of the True Faith that have succumbed to the demon of reason and common sense. These purges take place historically shortly before a political party self-immolates. It is a sad thing to see the party of Lincoln about to break itself apart upon the reefs of extremism.
Even Barry Goldwater wouldn't recognize this party. However rigid his ideology, he still understood that engagement in the process--even in a losing effort--was important. His successor from Arizona has decided instead, in a fit of pique, that he just won't join in anymore. Former presidential candidate and Senator from Arizona John McCain announced on the Senate floor he would no longer participate in lawmaking this session. He did not resign, or offer to return his salary to the Treasury Department, he just decided to become the laziest Senator in Washington. That in itself is a pretty tall order. He apparently believes he is up to the task, but I imagine he will walk that statement back. Egos of that proportion don't stand in the darkness very long. Perhaps the voters in Arizona will finally receive that for which they are paying. Perhaps they will instead decide his retirement is appropriate this fall.
Fear mongering has an epic and sordid history in politics. In long ago and recent times it relies on distortions, lies and ad hominen personal attacks to gain traction among the poorly informed. Then it fans the flames of divisiveness with race-baiting and conspiracy theories that would be laughable if the intent wasn't so sinister. In the infancy of this country tracts were published under pseudonyms and distributed by hand and reprinted in small presses. Later, similar tactics were adopted by newspapers on a massive scale (notably Hearst publications) as yellow journalism flourished in the nineteenth and early twentieth century. Since then the cavalcade of technology has brought us Father Coughlin, an anti-Semitic Nazi apologist; Sen. Joe McCarthy, a Commie hunter that almost single-handedly fomented the Cold War, and has led us from Joe Pine to Rush Limbaugh and the modern day successor to Hearst, Rupert Murdoch and Fox 'News'. The saddest part of this, especially in recent times, is that for Limbaugh and his ilk stirring the pot is a cold calculation to make more money. Make no mistake, theirs is not an act of conscience, it is show business. With controversy--the more shrill the better--comes ratings. With ratings comes cash. End of story.
Watch carefully. When the hubbub over health care dies down, as it will, and the value of the sideshow loses its ratings punch, the flabby arguments from the right will disappear and a new villainous conspiracy will emerge. It's even money what it will be. The Senate will take up regulatory reform of the financial industry next and you can be sure that the right will weigh in, but perhaps with caution, given the mood of the populace toward that industry. My bet for the next cause celebre' for conspiracy theorist will be immigration reform. Expect a comeback from Lou Dobbs for that effort.
Ultimately, when no reasonable middle course of action is acceptable to the extremophiles of a party, factionalization will doom it to the dustbin of history. Without strong leadership and a reassertion of reasonable compromise that is where the GOP seems headed.
I suppose if I really wanted to reopen the conspiracy can of worms I could let it leak that all those water boardings Dick Cheney insists
were are so important in Gitmo were done with fluoridated water, in Area 51 instead.
As Sarah Palin put it; time to reload, America.